Thoughts from UshiCon, Austin and a local Sake Brewery

I am back from another convention. I was accepted as a panelist for UshiCon and so I went. If you’re close to me personally, you know this convention was… a lot. Disorganization and poor communication made it hard to plan for, hard to get excited for and hard to do but I’ve never turned my back on a convention and I don’t plan on doing so now. I spent weeks frantic over which of my already finished costumes to wear and weeks frantic over the state of my panels and me as a panelist. I want to talk about this con as I have talked about others since this one doesn’t lend towards a flowing narrative, let’s bring back the old format: you’re welcome. 

  • Austin has too many toll roads. If this is supposed to help boost the economy then I want to see it boost the economy. I get tolls pay for roads but good lord I do not look forward to my bill that will be sent to me sometime within the next couple of months. 
  • Austin is a beautiful city that is simultaneously very close and very far away full of things I quite like a bit. 
  • The hotel my friend and I were staying at this go around as beautiful and I’m so glad I found a good one. I was fretting over the condition of the hotel only to redeem myself from the previous year where we stayed in Kamoshida’s Castle with a staircase that went to nowhere. 

Now for some context. UshiCon is a con I’ve tried to get into for years. It was just never at a good time so I could never make it. It’s an 18+ con and I’ve been trying to visit since college. I put in a panel application late last year and was shocked to find out that I was. The convention itself is older, in its 15th iteration of the eponymous convention. I was lured in by the hopes of an older audience as recently I have been disillusioned and deep in the ennui of being an anime fan, panelist and human person. I assumed that maybe being around a group of older peers would help.

Back to the bullet points: 

  • Whole Foods is a magical land full of delicious and over-priced food. I regret nothing.
  • The Domain is a mall that I could live in but also reminds me of all of the best and worst parts of gentrification and generational wealth. 
  • It was nice to get some hallway photos for once. 
    • For context: hallways are when photographers ask to take photos of you in the con hallway. It typically means you look good and are worth photographing.
  • Having costumes and panels done is wonderful and it means moving forward, I want to work on having that material done way before the convention.
  • Getting ready in a hotel bathroom is indeed an art form; and one I am getting shockingly good at including applying makeup, wigs

One of the detours I took on this trip was to a local sake distillery: Texas Sake and FOR THE LOVE OF KAMI-SAMA their stuff is delicious. Honestly, some of the best sake I’ve ever had in my life and you should support them if you’re anywhere near Austin. Austin did feature some delicious food including Cafe Eden which had some of the best chicken katsu I’ve ever had and Little Lucy’s donuts which is a pink food truck that serves mini donuts and I could just live there; let’s be honest. Also I found a cute little succulent shop that nearly resulted in Toi gaining a sibling…which may happen this year regardless.

This convention didn’t bring a lot to me as far as big bombastic moments like larger cons but I do want to get a little personal here. This convention opened my eyes and well…let’s ditch the bullet points. 

I have been struggling as a panelist for the last year or two. I’ve been chasing the high of packed houses from 2015 and 2016. I’ve been chasing this high that I can still dazzle audiences and still be good. But my numbers have not been the best in the last few years, hell; I’ve had flat out bad conventions in the last few years and in tying so much of myself and my self-worth to paneling; I hated myself. I was not my best and I was bitterly disappointed and cruel to myself. I had told myself over and over again that I liked small crowds and that surely it was my fault that audience participation had dwindled and my numbers weren’t the same. It was my fault, my failure, and my inadequacies. 

UshiCon told me that I was partially right. I do like paneling. I do like small and engaged crowds. I am good at this and all of those things were so needed for me, my career and my ego. 

I have spent the last few years beating my head against a wall obsessing over what I was doing wrong even though the answers were right in front of me. I was ignoring changes in my audience, changes in trends and changing in how conventions are to begin with. I have spent the last few years chasing a dragon that flew off years ago; hoping lightning would strike twice and shunning any other success I had. 

During UshiCon I had a guy say that I changed his view on media criticism. I met a fan who said they loved my energy. I had questions that spilled out into the hallway and I couldn’t see any of that as success because I didn’t have a packed house. 

And it took some serious self-reflection and some serious emotional time to realize that I was not helping myself. I was giving myself too much time and resenting a lack of questions during my panels rather than the simple answer of just asking for less damn time. I was upset at low numbers as I forgot that for most conventions: fan panelist attendance is down if you aren’t like Youtube famous. 

I spent years mad at myself for nothing; well, for things that are rather easy to fix. 

It also reminded me that I am so blessed to have Carlos as a co-panelist. I traveled with another friend of mine who I am indeed close to but certainly communicates in a way that was less helpful to me: which to be fair, I’m awful at communicating my needs. At this stage, Carlos is damn near psychic and knows my needs and knows how to talk me up, talk me down and keep me grounded and even; and I only realize how much I appreciate him and need him during those moments of intense stress and emotional exhaustion when he isn’t there.  

UshiCon was a good time. I can’t say it was a great time, but it was a good time. It’s given me a new focus and a new drive to be better that I have needed now for a few years. I look forward to more conventions this year; maybe even one for fun; I haven’t taken a con off in years so maybe I’ll just visit one to visit. I look forward to retooling my formula and being the best version of me. I’m not the same person I was in 2015. The world is not the same world as it was in 2015. I’m not a bad person for not being able to pack a house consistently; most performers can’t.

So thank you to all of those who came to see me during Ushicon. Thank you to Ushicon for having me. Thank you to my friends who keep me humble and thanks to my anxiety that never lets me think too many positive things about myself. 

See you all next con. 

Thoughts from A-Kon 29

_This is obviously Kamoshida's castle. Look at those doors that go to nowhere. This is clearly a castle from Persona 5_.png

I’m back from another A-Kon. Another 500 miles. Another whirlwind weekend. Another set of memories with thoughts and feelings attached to them. Let’s discuss.

  • The drive gets a little easier every time if I get to make a stop.
  • Now that we’re at this place…let’s talk about the hotel:
    • This has to be the jankiest hotel we’ve ever stayed in. It was super expensive for the night and every time we overturned something there was a stain. WiFi didn’t work (bad for a panelist), shotty television (also bad for a panelist), stains everywhere and it was all just bad. Roaches in the stairwell, elevators that didn’t work but the only light was a man named Joshua. He upgraded our room (which was still stained but had a kitchen) and did his best to keep me and Carlos. But the crappy room really weighed heavily on both of us. Me as an introvert rely on the hotel to recoup and relax after how intense and draining con is and that just didn’t happen. I think it all left me even more tired than I should have been.
  • The hotel pool was weird, including two doors that seemed to go nowhere and the pool was an unnatural blue color: I can tell, my swimsuits are both Iwatobi blue and it matched my Iwatobi suit.
  • Hotel breakfast was awful but I do love me a Texas Waffle.
  • Remember last year’s A-Kon when I complained about the layout and the walking? Let’s touch on that.
    • I still had issues with the layout but this year it seemed to flow a lot better. I didn’t care so much that I had to wander far to get to places, it just seemed to flow better. But the heat was unbearable. I also got to take some awesome photos in the Water Gardens this year. Except for the bad 12 dollar Chinese food. That can go to hell where it belongs.
  • This con was absolutely THOT-con, like the amount of scantily clad cosplayers was intense. I’m old, y’all. We just didn’t do things that way.
  • It was AMAZING meeting people that I’ve only known online.
  • Apparently using a setting spray means nothing, I still got makeup everywhere.
  • Revolving sushi is amazing.
  • Daiso did not have apple gummies. My heart is still broken.
  • Lonely God may be the best chip brand ever.
  • Gen Korean BBQ is still amazing but it’s not great when you’re tired and dehydrated.
  • I still love Chicken Express and Taco Bueno. No one will take that from me.
  • Fun fact, I still don’t really understand e-sports.
    • Carlos got to do a big tournament at a huge e-sports arena and it all just seemed sort of silly to me. I get that I’m a cosplayer and too much of my brain is taken up by anime trivia but hey, it all just seems like a lot of fuss for a game.
  • I also learned that I don’t like losing.
    • Fun fact, I’ve always known this but Carlos and I sort of discovered why and it was all over a fighting game. So I love Naruto Clash of Ninja and in comparison to Carlos, it was for once, something I was good at. But Carlos is good at fighting games and he rather quickly learned how to beat the game and beat me. The same happened in Castlevania another game I thought I was okay at. It upset me because I suddenly felt like I wasn’t good at something and Carlos had to tell me that there are lots of things that he looks at me and sees as things I’m good at. It was sort of frustrating because in that moment, it didn’t matter. It’s a feeling that I’ve felt most of my life and it actually is really well illustrated in Free!. Haruka, in the first episode, talks about the pain of being almost an adult after being a child prodigy for most of his life. As a child, he was the best and as a teen, he’s just above average. That inferiority is something I’ve felt most of my life and it manifests in an inability to lose at something as simple as a video game or card game.That was something Carlos got to learn this weekend.
  • Bar Rescue may be the best thing on TV.
  • Live P.D. is also some damn fine television.
  • Just Dance for the Switch is evil and I am still winded from Applause by Lady Gaga.
    • Also, I’d love to do a Persona 5 group cosplay and do the Numa Numa routine. It’s very on-brand for a few of the best boys.
  • Flex-Glue is a strange thing that Carlos thinks is wonderful based on the advertising, so I suppose advertising does work.
  • Carlos is still surprised at my ability to choke down pills.
  • Honestly, Anthony Bourdain’s death hit me hard. Those of you who know me know that Bourdain was one of my idols and knowing that he lost his battle with mental illness brought me down a lot. It was nice though having friends that checked in on me and know that I am always here for you, dear readership. Together, we are never alone.
  • Packing alternate costumes was the best plan I ever had and having one go to hell was annoying after all the work I put into it was irksome but it felt good being out of costume.
  • By the time we reached the last day of con and my panel day I was really low energy and down and I felt like I couldn’t get that energy from the crowd or from Carlos; he was tired too after being in a crappy room and that was worrisome. I’ve always struggled with my friendships and I worry that I rely too much on and don’t get enough from those I care about. I worry that I lean too much on Carlos but also that he is not able to accept when I need to lean on him. That’s no one’s fault, just a realization.
  • Paneling on Sunday was really disappointing but this ended up being one of the best panel experiences of my life.

I will never forget getting to huge a young woman after telling her that she’s going to be okay after she expressed concerns about coming out to her family. I’ll never forget spotting friends in aisles and buying things that I’ll treasure forever. I’ll never forget swimming in a pool that was clearly out of Persona 5 and watching Carlos’ mind work through the mechanics of very broken fighting games.

This A-Kon was a lot, I’m happy to be home and happy to be finished with it all.

Till next year.

Thoughts from A-Kon 28

-This entire weekend has just been me complaining about Yuri on Ice, making pterodactyl noises and non-sexual grunts and running away from my problems.--Said in the Hotel during A-Kon 28.png

It’s always surprising how I feel leaving convention. Sometimes I’m excited to get back on the road and return home and sometimes I never want the weekend to end. Here are the thoughts and feelings I had before, during and after A-Kon 28.

  • I for sure don’t mind the 4 hour drive so much when I get to take breaks.
  • Sometimes hotel breakfast is a trap.
    • No, seriously. Carlos and I were both super sick after hotel breakfast and we didn’t eat it again. And we all know how seriously I take hotel free breakfast so this was very disappointing to me.
  • There’s nothing quite like seeing your ex check into the same hotel you’re staying in.
    • Especially if you didn’t break up with that person on good terms.
      • No seriously, it was a huge emotional burden dealing with those feelings and seeing this person over and over again after such a painful break up was difficult to say delicately.
  • Gen Korean BBQ is still an amazing place.
    • And I get all the banchan since Carlos doesn’t like it.
  • Daiso is still the most magical place I’ve ever been to and they have fantastic candy.
    • No, really. I got 5 bags of apple gummies. Please send more apple gummies.
  • 85C may replace Mozart Bakery as my go-to place for breads.
    • Please don’t tell Mozart. I can’t have them know I cheated on them.
  • Bringing in stuff for a care package reminds me of how extra of a friend I am.
    • I made the boys (Carlos and Ricky) a mix-tape and badges for their service.
      • That’s right, reader. I made a damn mix-tape.
  • After the last few hotels rooms that gave me my own bedroom and bathroom, I’ve grown spoiled to that.
    • I’ve also grown spoiled to having a kitchen.
      • I love Carlos to death as a friend but I need my own bedroom.
        • He snores.
  • I found out about Adam West’s death while at Kirin Court with Carlos and it really messed me up for days.
  • So real talk, I hated A-Kon’s new layout.
    • Ft.Worth is not Dallas. Parking was a nightmare. Finding food was  nightmare and walking even a half a mile in costume while bound, padded, in a wig and in a heavy layered costume is a miserable sort of hell. And spreading it around 3 hotels made the organic fun of “falling” into a place out of the question. We had to plan everything because everything was blocks away. Nothing could be spontaneous. And all the things Carlos and I do, our traditions,  were so far away we could barely enjoy them. Normally 10-20 minute drives because 45 minutes to 1 hour long slogs across I-20. That really ruined some of my fun during this convention.
  • Less jokey panels are fun but interesting.
    • Normally, I’d never try a new panel at such a big con but it was important to me. 150 people saw me over 2 days and I’m proud of them. I got many compliments and people seemed engaged. Now I can workshop them better and be a better panelist. That’s how I grow.
  • It’s difficult being surrounded by media pieces you don’t like.
    • I still dislike YoI and it was everywhere. Literally. And it did upset me once or twice. But the hatred did dull after day 2 of seeing poorly-dressed Victors running around.
      • Fun fact though: I feel really tsundere about YoI because I should love this series and I did finish it but the fandom..god, the fandom hurts me.
  • Really this whole con was just about things that were popular: it was Zeitgeist the Convention.
    • Maybe that isn’t all bad.
  • The 90s Dance Music channel on Amazon Prime music was fire!
    • Nothing like Carlos and I dancing and singing to Barbie Girl.
      • Don’t judge us.
  • I do love cosplayers of all kinds, shapes and sizes but I’ll always rail against shake and go cosplay. Details are wonderful and they make me so happy as a fangirl and cosplayer. I do sometimes wish people cared a little more about these details sometimes but I’m from a different era of cosplay
  • I’m really shaken by the lack of routine we were able to have at this con with it being in Ft. Worth.
    • I’m still disappointed in this days later.
  • I’m upset I didn’t get my tea and cake after a good panel.
    • I did get ice cream, though.
  • I realize now having lived in San Antonio for some years that I seriously miss Taco Bueno and Chicken Express.
  • I’m disappointed in myself that I let people take my joy away.
  • However, Carlos did learn that you can easily melt my heart with a Rowlet.
    • No seriously, I freaked out over my sweet birb son.
  • I worry a lot about Carlos and I as friends.
    • We’re very different in nearly every way and sometimes I wonder why we’re friends and what can come of it. And then he’ll say “Let’s play DDR. I know you like that.” and I’m less worried.
  • Apparently, every Free! cosplayer was at the literal pool at convention.
    • I regret not visiting that pool.
  • I’m realizing that I’m not a huge fan of official merch and I much rather spend my money on original art pieces.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the few things Carlos and I can agree on so we literally watched that all weekend.
  • Sometimes, you wear so much highlighter that you get compliments about it.
    • No really, Carlos has never seen me with that much makeup on and I loved living my best Farrah Moan fantasy.
  • There’s nothing like meeting webcomic artists that you follow.
    • Special thank you to Rem of Devil’s Candy and Ru of Saint for Rent and letting me squee over them so much.
  • If a hand fetishist asks for your gloves, do not let him take them for free.
    • Try to auction them off for $50.
      • Then immediately take them off and feel dirty for the rest of the day.
  • Somehow, it’s impossible to run from the things you want to avoid. They will always find you.
  • Sometimes, being the bigger man isn’t rewarding but it’s necessary.
  • I do still love being able to come down from the stage and talk to people. Answering questions is amazing.

I have so many feelings about this A-Kon. I cried in the parking lot for several minutes before driving away and my music choices after driving away didn’t help (I got KanshaBrothers and Wind back to back and I couldn’t help but be emotional, don’t judge me.). Normally the last day of con is a ceremony. There’s cake, there’s tea, there’s time with a friend I only see a few times a year. This time, he had to go to work and I had to drive back home. We didn’t get to live our traditions. We didn’t get to claim the time we had. I let my emotions get to me and that I’m not proud of. But for every moment of being annoyed by poor cosplay choices there were four or five that I loved being able to spend time with friends, fans and idols. A-Kon and conventions are my bread and butter. They’re my life. And I’m glad I went even if it was less than perfect.

Thank you for all of those that saw my panels, asked me questions, asked me for photos, let me take photos of you and all the delicious food I ate and all the fun memories I did make.

See you next year.

Amanda.Actually: Panelist Most of the Time

Hello, readers! As many of you know, I’m a panelist, cosplayer and general fangirl. It’s convention season for me and I wanted to ask you: my friends, readers and those that are generally made of awesome a simple question.

AichiYume Needs Your Help (1)

 

Topics I’ve covered in the past include: Fandoms 101, Character Development, Men’s Roles in Anime and Convention Etiquette. The writing ones are a huge hit and I’m lucky enough to be a seasoned fangirl so I can talk to a few topics.

Here’s a picture of my panel crowd from Character Development at A-Kon 27 ( I apologize for the crappy pic but this wasn’t even all the crowd, the room ended up filling out by the time I was finished with my panel).

20160604_210312-COLLAGE

 

And here’s another picture from MizuumiCon to another fairly packed house where I presented my Fandoms 101 panel for the first time!

20150321_131112

At this stage of asking about topics there are no wrong answers so don’t hold back. I’m very open to suggestions.

What topics would you love to see in a panel run by the tiny awesome me?

I look forward to your submissions in the comments below or on any of my social media channels that are linked to this humble little blog.

Thanks for reading as always and thank you for continuing to inspire me to be a better writer, panelist and person.

The Lessons from A-Kon 2016

-So if I'm Fuudo, then that means Carlos is Infiltration and Ricky is Xian.-

I have returned from A-Kon and it was the most bittersweet time at a convention that I can think of in recent memory. Here are a few musings during my time paneling, cosplaying and being with friends: both old and new and some people that I much rather just avoid.

  • There is nothing like eating white cake and watching Django Unchained.
  • Paneling is still honestly the most rewarding and fantastic thing I have done in my young life.
    • Having fans and people listening is absolutely amazing and I hope to keep doing it for as long as I am able.
  • Swimming is a fantastic way to unwind.
  • Hot tubs are in fact magical.
  • Mackerel is really really delicious.
    • Let’s just say that this weekend I sorta just turned into Haruka Nanase.
  • Having a bedroom to yourself as a lady, cosplayer and introvert is a fantastic luxury.
  • Always save your presentation on your desktop and flash drive.
  • Bonding over webcomics and music is absolutely amazing.
  • Patience is a virtue: my friends have a lot of nonsense to put up with being my friend so I did have to learn to support my friends despite not being as invested in the activity as they were.
  • Cosplay dogs are the best.
    • It’s even better when you see the same cosplay dog two years in a row.
  • Jurassic World is a hot pile of NOPE.
  • Teen Titans vs. Justice League can not be saved by Sailor Moon transformation sequences.
    • And despite Damien Wayne being an insufferable brat, he has every right to feel that way. You do you, Damien.
  • As a former Sebastian, getting a hug from Ciel is actually kinda cosplayer cool.
  • Teaching Drag lingo to someone is an arduous task.
  • A girl in a Trump hat may call you a social justice warrior: she may just be right and that isn’t a bad thing.
  • Friendships aren’t about understanding everything: it’s about support.
  • I absolutely do not understand Gundam model building but I will gladly accept the hobby being explained to me.
  • Meeting other panelists is amazing.
  • Street Fighter is pretty awesome and Karin is the best.
  • Convention tournaments are amazingly fun.
  • Free breakfast is fine but paying for a Dutch Baby was worth the money.
  • Backstreet Boys are best heard at 1 AM.
  • Being recognized as a panelist and a pretty low-rent one is kinda a terrifying feeling.
    • Like I am legit not famous so for people to say “Hey, I remember you from last year.” out of like THOUSANDS of people they saw LAST YEAR is insane to me.
  • I have apparently a very intense angry face that can strike fear into the hearts of men from several feet away.
    • This face was apparently more angry than the AoT potato proposal anger face.
      • You are welcome to ask about that reference later
  • Blackberry ginger ale should not taste like grape but for some reason it does.
  • Shopping at  Tom Thumb at midnight is pretty fun but the rabbi there shopping for last minute items will judge you terribly on your choices to frolic through the aisles looking for s’mores-making materials.
  • Tastemade Japan has clearly gone too far by hollowing out a bread loaf, filling it with meat sauce, broccoli and potato then cracking an egg over it and covering the bread’s edges in mayonnaise.
    • You must be stopped, Tastemade Japan. You have gone mad with power.
  • Do not try to ride the hotel elephants.
  • Dim Sum is best when with a group and when you try new things.
    • But also eat lots of the things you love.
      • Also do not touch my pineapple buns.
  • Drama may happen but what matters is how you respond to drama.
  • Don’t be afraid to stand your ground: if someone makes you feel terrible, you do NOT have to put up with that noise.
  • Having a CVS within walking distance to the hotel is fantastic.
  • You can in fact make a cake with just two ingredients.
  • Do not do your makeup in the dark.
  • I look forward to the day that I stop being my screen or badge name to many and start being “Amanda”.
  • Fuudo apparently looks a lot like Japan from Hetalia.
  • Conventions absolutely can take you out of anime and fandoms in general.
    • Conventions are intense and they remind all of us that our fandoms are FULL of people we don’t exactly like getting to know or see.
      • To that point, it did remind me that there’s A LOT I still have to learn about modern fandoms and fan culture.
  • Team Razer forever, though.
    • And to that point despite me being a HUGE advocate of E-sports I for the life of me do not understand watching people play a game that you yourself own.
      • Zero judgement, I just don’t get it.

I said earlier that this convention was bittersweet. I had some of my biggest panel turns out and some very light drama but it was drama that I think I learned from the most. I learned so much about myself and patience and understanding things that just aren’t my thing. I had to learn that friends will make choices you don’t get. That support means support no matter what. Hype is what you make of it. And it’s always rough leaving a friend behind. I won’t forget this one. I won’t forget the applause in my panels. The costumes I saw. The costumes I wore. The bus trip there and the bus trip back. Being angry at paying for getting my car back but being so happy to unpack my loot, stash my costumes and just get ready for the next one: there’s always a next one. The show must go on and I’m always excited to be on stage and then get off the stage again. Paneling is amazing: the thrill is fantastic but learning and being around others is even better. I’m happy to be back and I’m looking forward to my next convention…but for now I need some hot tea and a nap.

 

An African-American Otaku’s Cosplay Requiem

“If human beings had genuine courage, they’d wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween.”  Douglas Coupland

When I was a little girl watching Sailor Moon while all the other kids wanted to be Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars or even Chibi Usa: I wanted to be Tuxedo Mask. I tell this story because I feel like it’s the best insight into who I am as a cosplayer. I was a born cosplayer. I was a theater kid, pageant baby and I love being in costume.  Being a cosplayer is one of the truest forms of self expression that I can think of. It’s my catharsis, my community and my love. I am also a small, chubby African-American woman.

Now, it’s important to mention a very important to mention that there are plenty of absolutely amazing black cosplayers and this is not a rant about diversity. This is just to provide some of my thoughts and experiences about being a tiny black otaku. I personally almost never let being black or a woman hold me down from attempting a costume or character. Roy Mustang? Sure, lemme polish my boots. Deidara? Let’s pick up a verbal tick, un! Castiel? I’ll go grab my wings. It’s never really bothered me that my skin tone didn’t match the characters.

When I was young in my cosplay career the issue of race and cosplay did bother me a lot. I hated being that one black insert name of character. I wanted to be judged based on my work. Not how good I looked for someone who was the wrong color for that character. I took a break from cosplay. From the somewhat institutionalized racism. From the somewhat misogyny and when I picked cosplay back up I had even fewer worries or concern about my race, height or gender.  I didn’t care that I was a tiny chocolate girl cosplaying a Doctor or the Riddler or Princess Unikitty. I was just me. I picked characters I liked and I had fun being them and I looked damn good: that’s what matters when it comes to cosplay.

I can count the times on my hand that race and gender have held me back from cosplaying a character. What goes into this choice? Mostly series canon. For instance I adore Scandinavia and the World and the rest of Humon’s work but if a character looks a certain way; it’s for a reason so it just seems somewhat inappropriate to me to fudge that. Axis Powers: Hetalia is another example: I love the series but I won’t cosplay it out in public outside of an event just because these are meant to be caricatures: the characters look this way for a reason and I despite being a very lovely lady do not look like France or Austria.

Now you may be asking by now: Amanda, why don’t you care about race, height and gender when it comes to character depictions? Well, that’s a good and fair question. I do care. A lot. I’m a writer. If I make a character look a certain way; it’s for a reason. But I tend not to fret over things I can’t change. Costume work is amazing and make up has come a long way but I’m not going to suddenly become a fair-skinned male without a great deal of work done. I can augment aspects of myself but when they are too much I simply rather not. Now I don’t mind a hidden heel to make me somewhat taller than 5’1’’ and I’ll use shapewear to slim my profile but nothing’s changing the cafe color of my skin or the fact that once the shoes come off I am very very petite. And above all I mostly just don’t see an issue with it. Yes, Superman is a white male but if I put on that cape I can become Superman and not just a chocolate-colored Superman marauder. I put a lot of work into my costumes and I want people to see that work, that passion, that excitement; I don’t want people to just ask me why I chose a character that wasn’t of color.

In the early days of anime and comics: diversity was a legit concern. All heroes looked the same and there wasn’t much room for a female yet alone a female of color that wasn’t an exotic princess of a made up land or just an alternate darker-colored carbon copy of a classic hero. Diversity has absolutely changed for American comics and it’s never been easier to be LGBT, young, tall, short, out of shape or anything and still be a valid member of a recognizable franchise.

I am, however, primarily an otaku. Japan has not quite ridden the wave of diversity and it’s still somewhat difficult finding characters that well…look like me. But this goes beyond just looks: most characters I encountered didn’t sound like me, either. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post: I didn’t exactly have a very African-American upbringing. For instance when watching Static Shock as a young girl, I couldn’t relate to Virgil (Static Shock) and his urban, single-parent upbringing. I was a young girl living with two very loving and protective parents in a mostly upper-middle class fairly white but also very Vietnamese suburb of a large North Texas city. When it comes to cosplaying various anime and Japanese videos games my attitude has been mostly not to let it bother me as above mentioned: I can count the times on my hand where I’ve looked at my skin and said I probably shouldn’t cosplay that character. This also comes to mind in the question of “race-bending”. It’s a big thing in the cosplay and fandom world. What if Hermonie was black? What if Castiel was Hispanic? This has come out of the fandom world in direct response to the lack of diversity in cosplay and it’s sometimes still a contentious topic: it’s technically a non-canon depiction but amazing fan art and costumes have come out of different races being well-known characters so even if someone does a hell of a good job, it’s still to the fan world a non-canon outfit. I bring up race-bending because I have been asked more than once if any of my costumes are race-bent insert name of character here. And most of the time I’ll say no. Again, I’m not aiming to be a darker skinned version of a character: that character is who I am trying to be

Another key part of this little conversation is the backlash so many receive when it comes to bringing up questions of diversity in casting. Oh well that side character or other universe’s character is of some vague ethnicity. And to that I have one thing to say: I am a drama queen. If I cosplay someone. When I cosplay someone: I want to be recognized. I want to walk out onto the convention floor and immediately someone knows who I am. Not an alternate version of or a side character from. And not to say there aren’t some great side and alternate characters: (Young Avengers, anyone? ) but I personally don’t struggle much with looking at my skin and looking at a character on page or screen and recognizing and admitting the difference but still deciding to cosplay that character.

So now you may be asking Amanda, this is all lovely, but why rant on like this? Well, here’s why: I am a passionate cosplayer. I am also of color. Those two things should not hinder the other. Being black doesn’t mean I can’t be a nerd and being a cosplayer shouldn’t mean ignoring that I’m the wrong Pantone shade in comparison to most of the characters on the screen or page. 

Diversity matters and one of the first steps to making it a logical and real part of the world: we have to step up our game. Cosplayers of all size, gender, creed and race: we all have to step up. So don’t be afraid of what you look like. You might not look just like the character you want but that shouldn’t stop you. Cosplay is art. Cosplay is magic. Cosplay is what you make of it. So be unafraid. Look good. Show the world how wonderful you can be. Let me be your battle cry. And if you see me in costume: comment on my stitches not my skin color.